We adults are always focused on teaching children the ways of
the world. It is our job to tell them that shooting spit wads at a
restaurant table is inappropriate or that they should hold the door
if someone is walking in behind them.
We adults are always focused on teaching children the ways of the world. It is our job to tell them that shooting spit wads at a restaurant table is inappropriate or that they should hold the door if someone is walking in behind them.
What we do shapes the person they will become as they model our behavior. If we burp the alphabet during a movie, they will do the same (I know a few adults who could probably make it to “Z”). If we are polite to others, we show our children the benefits of courtesy and manners.
Even though I’m a teacher by profession, I’m amazed at how much I learn from those younger than I am. This summer, I have been coaching a group of 9- and 10-year-old Little League baseball all-stars, and they have taught me a lot.
Without saying it, they remind me that baseball is just a game. Parents such as me – especially in Hollister – take their baseball seriously. They yell for their kids, and sometimes at them. They expect success and they want their kids treated fairly. They – we – can put a lot of undue pressure on kids who aren’t even in sixth grade yet.
When I show up at the ballpark for practice, I’m immediately reminded about the perspective I should take. While the adult coaches are strategizing offensive strategies, defensive alignments and substitution patterns, the kids are organizing a home run derby or talking about what they did earlier in the day with their friends.
They love baseball and are good at it, but it’s not their job. Parents want their kids to make the all-stars, then make the starting lineup, then win a game, then win the district, then win the section, then win the state championship.
The kids’ focus is much more, well, innocent. They want to have fun playing a game with their friends. They like being district and section champions and having their names and pictures in the paper, but I truly believe that they just like hanging out with one another and would do so regardless of whether a tournament championship was on the line.
In our section championship game on Wednesday, our opponent’s dugout was ringing with the chant, “What time is it? Game time!” It sounded like a football locker room and it must have helped that other team get pumped up for the game.
In our dugout, the kids started chanting, “What time is it? 6:54!” because that’s what the time was. I had to tell them to stop, because I didn’t want us to seem disrespectful or dismissive of our opponent, but I knew then – stifling a smile – that these kids were out to have fun, and winning was likely to follow.
Both of our losses this postseason have been games in which we have gotten blown out. We coaches were upset and noted how the kids had “bad body language,” as we like to say. But what I learned about – and from – them is that as soon as they hit the parking lot of the baseball field after each game, they had put those losses behind them and moved on to talking with their friends, planning a sleepover, or wondering what was for dinner that day.
Then the next day, they came back and won the championship. While the coaches and parents nervously sat through another close contest, these kids just relaxed and played baseball. It’s amazing how that works.
Our next and final stop on our summer journey is the Northern California state championships starting Sunday in San Jose. The 13 kids on our roster probably don’t have an idea they are one of only six teams in their age group from Fresno to the Oregon border still playing, and if they do they probably don’t care too much.
They are excited they still get to hang out with their buddies for a few more days and play baseball. Win or lose, they have shown me that as serious as I am about winning, the perspective they offer is a much more important testament to the value of youth sports.